Cook Dorset with Lesley Waters - Chocolate
PUBLISHED: 14:01 18 March 2010 | UPDATED: 15:45 20 February 2013
Chocolate! Who can resist it! But it's not just for those with a sweet tooth - Lesley Waters has a savoury dish for us in which it's a surprising ingredient, although she does give us a recipe for chocoholics too
There's something about chocolate that most people just can't seem to resist. I don't know if it's the sweet flavour or the warm liquid sensation as it melts in your mouth, or both! But whatever it is, a few delectable squares or a steaming hot mug can be hard to beat on a chilly winter's evening!
History states that, whilst it was Christopher Columbus who brought the first cocoa beans to Britain, it wasn't until early Victorian times that the solid bars that we know and love today were developed. Before that it was enjoyed in this country exclusively as a drink served in fashionable chocolate houses by people discussing the affairs of the time. I think I may have enjoyed those early drinks that had a more bitter taste than the sweeter chocolate we know today.
Since then, of course, chocolate has become very widely used and my main interest is in cooking with it! When cooking with chocolate it needs to be of a good quality and experts recommend a bar that contains a minimum of 70% cocoa solids (that's the bit that makes it 'chocolatey'). The team over at House of Dorchester know all about this and use traditional methods to create all manner of tempting treats. They continue to notch up 'Great Taste' Gold awards for their delicious chocolate creations, and their products are now available countrywide. Last summer I was privileged enough to visit behind the scenes at their base in Poundbury. Absolutely fascinating and, if you're passing, they have a small area where you can pop in and buy.
But moving away from the idea of traditional, sweet chocolate products, my main recipe this month is for a savoury dish of rabbit with prunes, beer and chocolate! Chocolate is a surprising and very successful addition to many savoury dishes. It's great married with chilli in recipes such as chilli con carne and gives an essential richness to this warming winter pot of rabbit and beer. And as a bonus recipe, for the real chocoholics amongst you, I have included my version of steaming hot chocolate - guaranteed to warm!
Slow-cooked Rabbit with Prunes, Beer and Chocolate
30ml/2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2 celery sticks, chopped
8 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
2tbsp plain flour
2tsp cracked pepper
2 rabbits, jointed into 6 pieces each
200ml/7fl oz beer
600ml/1pt chicken stock
2 bay leaves
8 juniper berries, crushed
250g/9oz dried, ready-to-eat prunes
2 squares good-quality dark, bitter chocolate, grated (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
1 Heat half the butter and oil in a large saut pan, add the onion and cook gently for 6 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic, celery and bacon and cook for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from pan and set to one side.
2 Place the flour and cracked pepper in a large plastic bag and season with salt. Add the rabbit pieces and shake well to coat each evenly.
3 Heat the remaining butter and oil in the saut pan and fry the rabbit in batches until golden on both sides. Transfer the rabbit to another large pan.
4 Return the onion, celery and bacon mixture to the saut pan and add any leftover flour from the plastic bag. Stir well for 1 minute.
5 Stir in the beer and stock, scraping up all the sediment from the bottom of the pan. Add the bay, juniper and prunes. Pour all the liquid over the rabbit, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 21/2 hours.
6 Lift out the rabbit and place on a warm serving dish. Whisk the chocolate into the sauce, season to taste and pour over rabbit. Serve with potato mash.
Brandied Hot Chocolate
225ml/8 fl oz semi-skimmed milk
45g /11/2oz chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), finely grated
Lightly whipped double cream to serve (optional)
Heat the milk to just below boiling point. Add the chocolate and sugar and stir over a very low heat until the chocolate has melted. Stir in the brandy and then pour into a mug. If you are feeling indulgent finish with a spoonful of cream.